HOW TO SPEND 3 DAYS IN LOS ANGELES
When it comes to how to spend 3 days in Los Angeles, there are many, many choices. But in this 3-day Los Angeles itinerary, I will try to narrow it down to the must-see destinations.
From Hollywood, where almost all American movies originate, to Venice Beach, to nearby Disneyland, LA has something for everyone – families, couples, or solo travelers included. LA is one of the best best cities to visit in the US.
Located in Southern California, along the Pacific Ocean, this huge sprawling city has almost 4 million people living in it. But it is also packed with exciting attractions but before talking about what to see in LA in 3 days, here are some travel tips.
The post was written by Rebecca
Travel Tips For Your 3 Days in LA
DISCLAIMER: THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS. THIS MEANS, I MIGHT EARN A SMALL COMMISSION WHEN YOU BUY A PRODUCT/SERVICE AT NO EXTRA COST TO YOU. MORE ABOUT IT HERE.
How to Get to Los Angeles
Because Los Angeles is so spread out, there are multiple airports that you may fly into. Here’s the list (though the most popular and centrally located is LAX):
- Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
- Ontario International Airport (ONT)
- John Wayne Airport (SNA)
- Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR)
- Long Beach Airport (LGB)
Once you’ve arrived at the airport, you can usually take a free airport shuttle from there to your hotel (most major hotels offer this service as a courtesy). However, if you prefer to rent a car, you can take a shuttle provided by your rental company (e.g. Avis, Hertz, Budget, etc.) to the off-site lot where the cars are kept.
If you want to save some money and avoid an Uber or taxi, then take the metro to your hotel downtown.
Take the free Green Line G airport shuttle to the Aviation/LAX Metro station where you pick up the Green Line train to Willowbrook, and then change to the Blue Line, and finally on to your hotel – total cost is $1.35 and takes an hour). Or the bus – the FlyAway bus runs 24/7, costs just under $10 each way, and takes about 30 minutes to get downtown.
If you are driving in to do this Los Angeles itinerary, then take I-15 to CA-14 when arriving from the east, and take the I-5 if you are coming from either north or south of the city.
Weather in Los Angeles
Weather in LA is really quite nice, with a Mediterranean climate that gets almost no rain in the summer. If you are coming for the summer months, the temperature usually doesn’t get much higher than 85ºF and no lower than 66ºF.
If you are visiting LA in winter, then you can enjoy more moderate temperatures than in many other American cities: from 49ºF to 66ºF. Most of the city’s rain comes in February.
What to Pack for a Los Angeles Trip
Since the weather in Los Angeles is on the mild side, you can pack lighter clothes for your trip. In summer, shorts and tank tops or t-shirts are fine, with a bathing suit if you plan on swimming or just laying out at the beach.
For winter, a light jacket and a few long-sleeved shirts and pants will be fine. You might also want to bring an umbrella since winter is their rainy season.
Of course, always bring good walking shoes because there is a lot to explore and you don’t want to have sore feet by the end of your 3 days in Los Angeles.
Where to Stay in Los Angeles For 3 Days
As you can imagine, there are plenty of accommodations in Los Angeles for you to choose from. Here are a couple of suggestions:
For a luxury hotel, pick Hotel Bel Air, which is an icon in the city and boasts amenities like an on-site restaurant, pools, etc.
A more mid-range option is Level DTLA, which is still a nice hotel and has a great location for getting to some popular attractions.
A budget hotel that has clean rooms, a good location, and even a restaurant is the New Seoul Hotel.
How to Get Around Los Angeles
Okay, I am going to be honest here. I do not like driving in Los Angeles.
There is almost always traffic, there are lots of freeways that are constantly intersecting each other (which can be confusing for visitors), and the drivers are, well, a little crazy. They drive very fast, tailgate, and cut each other off without using any turn signals.
It can be a little crazy on the roads of Los Angeles, so consider yourself warned. And I am from New York, which is known for its own aggressive drivers, and I still feel this way about LA!
That being said, it is easiest and most convenient to drive here because of how large and spread out everything is. But if you prefer to use public transportation, you can.
The metro lines go to most major areas where your itinerary destinations will be located (e.g. the Red Line will take you downtown from Hollywood pretty quickly).
And the bus is a good option as well, just plan for the extra travel time. Find more tips on how to use public transportation in LA.
If you want to use hop-on and hop-off buses, check out prices here.
More Travel Tips For Your 3-Day LA Itinerary
If you are driving, there are HOV/Carpool lanes that can be used if you have 2 or 3 (or more) people in your car.
Just cross into and out of these lanes when the double yellow line breaks. You can recognize these lanes by the diamond painted on them, and they can save you time in traffic.
If you are in the carpool lane and you are coming to a toll, make sure the lane isn’t only for Fastrack holders (a transponder for quick payment that some locals have). You may need to move over a lane to pay cash.
Parking is expensive and hard to come by in Los Angeles. There is metered parking on the streets, but be aware of the signs that state hours and days when it’s ok to park there. There are a lot of private lots you can use, and depending on the area and any events, could cost $8-$25.
Valet parking is an option, too, which is pricey but not always much more than the lots – and you don’t have to drive around searching for a space.
Smoking is not allowed in most indoor places, especially ones with food. California has some of the strictest anti-smoking laws in the country, so be aware before you light up. (BTW, it is also illegal here to smoke in the car if there is a minor – child under 18 – in there, too.)
It can be easy to get lost in LA, not just because of the size, but because the street names can change abruptly, and then change back later down the road. When navigating, it’s a good idea to use GPS or a map app to keep you going in the right direction.
Pick-pocketing isn’t uncommon in a place with this many tourists, so be careful in crowds and even while stopping to watch street performers, like at Venice Beach. This is an easy place to make a grab, so keep your belongings in front of you and held firmly.
There are some bad areas of Los Angeles, but the majority of the places you will visit will not be among them. There are areas of downtown that are a little run-down, and you will surely notice the homeless people that live on the side streets of the city, but for the most part, it is as safe as any other US city you visit.
But to name names, you should probably avoid Compton, Inglewood, South Central, and Central City East (aka Skid Row).
WHAT TO DO IN LA IN 3 DAYS
Los Angeles is a must-see place for any California itinerary – so, let’s start with the 3-day LA itinerary.
Day 1 in Los Angeles
It’s day 1 and we are going to start with beautiful and artsy Venice Beach. There are some lots for parking within walking distance (cost is about $3-$10) or you can look around on the side streets near the beach for a spot.
You’ve probably seen Venice Beach depicted in numerous TV shows and movies. It’s usually very quirky and artsy, with sidewalk shops, surfers, and bodybuilders.
And that’s not too far from the truth! Venice is very eclectic and fun. People are laidback and you can do some souvenir shopping here when the stalls open for the day. Head to the beach to enjoy the early morning sunrise and see the surfers catching waves.
You can wander over to the outdoor gym where the very fit like to show off their muscles. Or grab a bite to eat at a food stall. And do not miss the Venice Beach Canals, which are a historic landmark. Reminiscent of the canals in Italy, but with a California vibe, strolling these lovely canals will be a highlight of your trip. Perfect for solo travelers, couples, and families.
You could spend hours wandering the Venice Beach boardwalk, but I would advise only 2-3 hours to see the important stuff.
Our next stop is about 30 minutes away by car (1.5 hours by train).
Watts Towers Art Center
Watt Towers Art Center is located just south of the center of the city, near the original home of the artist, Simon Rodia.
It is not an art exhibit like many others, but rather a collection of sculptures and other pieces of art that you can tour. The art center is made up of 17 interconnected sculptural towers, individual sculptures and mosaics, and different architectural structures.
The entire thing is very impressive and a great stop for visitors who like architecture, art, and sculpture in particular.
You will probably only spend about an hour here, so then let’s head to our next stop – about a 20-minute drive due north.
LA Fashion District
How do you feel about shopping? It would be a shame to miss this fashion hub on your 3-day itinerary in Los Angeles.
This area is chock full of warehouses and shops where you can get clothing, accessories, and fabric – it’s actually the fashion hub for the entire west coast of the US. Check out the stores in Santee Alley.
This area is also the place to go if you are looking for decent knock-offs of your favorite designers at a fraction of the price.
Once you’ve done some shopping, let’s head to another popular location in LA – and get a late lunch (or early dinner).
This stop should just take 1-3 hours (depending on how much shopping you do), and then about 10 minutes to drive to the next destination. If you like walking, you could reach it in about an hour by taking San Pedro Street north.
Chinatown is a very popular destination for those visiting Los Angeles.
So, stop by this area that houses many different temples, eateries, and shops. Pagoda-style buildings are everywhere when you enter this part of the city, and it is a great place to grab a meal. If you like dim sum or Asian fusion, this is your place.
You can also do some shopping, have tea, or just explore the various side streets while you’re here. Take pictures with the pretty red Chinese lanterns that are hung everywhere.
After an hour or two, you can head over to the next destination. It’s only a couple of minutes by car.
Echo Park Lake
The Echo Park Lake is a beautiful place to stop and relax after a long day of sightseeing. Located in the center of the city, it is a secret gem that doesn’t get as much traffic or attention as nearby Silver Lake but it should be added on your Los Angeles itinerary
But it’s definitely worth a visit. Take a walk around the lake, which is roughly one mile. You can’t swim here, but the clear blue water makes a nice backdrop if you want to sit and soak in the sun. There are vendors if you want to get a snack.
And if you really want to get out on the water, then rent a swan paddle boat for a fun activity and different perspective on the city (lots of fun for couples). After you finish your boat ride and rest, head to our last attraction of the day, about a 15-minute ride away. The Red Line metro also goes this way, but takes about 30-40 minutes.
For our last stop of the day, check out Griffith Observatory. Open until 10pm, you can see the beauty of Los Angeles all lit up from this vantage point and another top thing to do in 3 days in LA.
Free of charge, the observatory sits on the slope of Mount Hollywood, which gives you views of downtown, Hollywood, the Los Angeles Basin, and the Pacific Ocean. It’s one of the best places for views in the city. There is also a planetarium inside, and for a small fee, you can enjoy one of their programs. Otherwise, just take in the views and explore the grounds, all free of charge. Great for families, couples, and solo travelers.
And that’s the end of day 1 in Los Angeles.
Day 2 in Los Angeles
It’s Day 2 in LA and we are going to start our morning at the pretty Shakespeare Bridge.
The Shakespeare Bridge is located in Franklin Hills, just north of the city center. It was built in 1926 with Gothic architecture. It’s a pretty little bridge that looks great in pictures if you want to grab a few in the early morning light. The bridge is a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument and named after the famous playwright.
This is just a short stop, but worth making the effort for since it is a landmark in the city and is really cute. Next stop is an iconic sign you have probably seen a million times, just not this close. The drive is about 10-15 minutes.
Hollywood Sign Trail
Hiking up to the Hollywood sign is a must for any Los Angeles itinerary for 3 days.
There are a number of trails, some longer than others, some easier or harder. Depending on your skill level, I would probably choose the Brush Canyon Trail (moderate), or maybe the Mt. Hollywood Trail (easy).
These hiking trails bring you right up to the sign, and a little above and behind it. You can look straight out over the entire city and it is absolutely breathtaking. It’s an amazing perspective and worth the time and energy to get up here.
Tip: Wear boots or sneakers because snakes live up here. And bring plenty of water, especially in the summer. Most hikes will take about 2-3 hours roundtrip, so keep that in mind – so, if you want to do longer hikes or plan a longer breaks to enjoy the views, do not put too much on your Los Angeles itinerary for that day.
Once you’re done, let’s head to another favorite destination and maybe grab something to eat (hiking is hard work!).
If you enjoy hiking in a group, check out this guided tour.
Dating back to 1960, stars with the names of actors and other celebrities have been emblazoned on the sidewalks of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street.
There are over 2600 stars today on the Hollywood Boulevard, so if you want to find your favorite star, visit their website to find its exact location. Or just wander the street, seeing what stars you find along the way – it surely is one of the best things to do in Los Angeles in 3 days.
In this area, you will also see the famous TCL Chinese Theater (which has regular movie showtimes) and find tours that will take you around Hollywood, even to see celebrities’ homes. If you love all things Hollywood, this is the place to be.
This should take you 1-3 hours. Grab some lunch at one of the cafes in the area, or do a little shopping at the quirky vintage shops. Then, if you’re still wondering where to go in Los Angeles in 3 days, check out this next stop.
Mulholland Scenic Overlook
After a 15-minute drive north, you’ll find yourself at Mulholland Drive Overlook.
This is a great place to get views of the city and its surrounding area. The street name may sound familiar as it’s been the setting of more than a few movies, including one named Mulholland Drive. But head up here to enjoy more Los Angeles scenery and a less crowded area of the city before we do a little (window) shopping.
Drive 15 minutes south to the heart of Beverly Hills.
Pronounced Roh-DAY-oh Drive, this street in Beverly Hills is one of the most famous in the world.
Like New York’s 5th Avenue, it’s comprised of some of the most exclusive boutiques, hotels, and restaurants around. It’s actually the connection of three streets, known as the Golden Triangle, but the name is synonymous with high class.
Depending on your budget, you may or may not want to buy anything here, but it’s still fun to explore this luxurious area where the wealthy Los Angelenos shop and relax. It is a good activity for solo travelers and couples – and even if you aren’t int luxury, I think it is one the must-see places in 3 days in Los Angeles.
When you’ve had your fill of haute couture, let’s head to our last stop of the day.
Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica Pier is about 30 minutes away by car, but it is worth the drive.
Jutting out into the Pacific Ocean, you will find shops, eateries, bars, and a ferris wheel that will give you some great views, especially as the sun sets.
Spend the rest of your evening wandering the pier, having dinner or drinks, and getting your feet wet in the surf (unless it’s winter, in which case the water will feel really cold!).
This is great way to cap off the night of Day 2 on this itinerary. If you want to check out the houses of Hollywood stars, then you can do a tour from Santa Monica.
Day 3 in Los Angeles
Day 3 in LA offers two options. There are a few more sights to see if you would like to continue to explore Los Angeles. Or… if you want to spend the day at one of the popular theme parks in the area, that is also an option.
So, if you decide to go with the sights, here are my suggestions:
White Point Park
Start with this great beach park for the morning of Day 3 – the White Point Park.
Known among locals for all the sea creatures you can see here, this beach area also has a children’s playground and picnic tables. So, take your breakfast to go and head here for a beach sunrise. This is especially great for families.
Relaxing at the beach can take anywhere from an hour to 3 hours, depending on how much fun you’re having. Then, head to The Getty Center to enjoy some art and views and more. (The ride takes about 45 minutes to an hour.)
The Getty Center is actually a campus set up by the Getty Trust that includes a free museum, beautiful gardens, and architecture.
You also get really nice views of LA, if you haven’t gotten enough of those yet. But seriously, this center is great for art lovers or really anyone. The gardens are nice to stroll through and there is plenty of space, so couples, families, and solo travelers should be able to enjoy what it has to offer. The villa is done in the Roman style and the art in the museum is of Greek and Roman origin for the most part.
Parking is available for $15 per car. This stop takes about 2-3 hours.
Orchard Hills Shopping Center
For the second half of Day 3, I would suggest going to the Orchard Hills Shopping Center.
This would be the last stop of the day because there’s lots to do here. It’s a favorite among locals and located in the area of Irvine, so a bit of a trek from The Getty – about an hour heading south along the coast.
Here you’ll find lots of shops, restaurants, and other services. You can get a spa treatment, buy some souvenirs, and have a flight of California wine while enjoying dinner – all in one place. If you find you still have time for one more stop, then head to the beach.
Just a 30-minute drive and you can be back on the coast, enjoying the scenic Huntington Beach.
California is famous for them, and this one is a nice sandy beach to lay out a towel or enjoy some water sports. Or just sit back and watch the sun set. Depending on how much time you have, you can decide the best way to close out Day 3 of your Los Angeles trip here at the beach.
Day Trips from Los Angeles for Day 3
Here are some things to do in Los Angeles in 3 days as a day trip:
This is “the happiest place on Earth,” or at least on the west coast of the US. Disneyland is an iconic landmark and a favorite among pretty much everyone, not just little kids.
Tickets go for about $97-$135, depending on how busy it is, and it’s located outside of LA, in neighboring Anaheim.
If you plan to visit Disneyland, plan in a full day – it is not a place to rush through. While it is considered a highlight for many people and you can find it on most 3-day Los Angeles itineraries, I have a few more alternatives for day 3 for you.
Half movie studio, half theme park, this is a great destinations for adults and families with older children.
Tickets cost about $115 per person, so get here early to make the most of your money. It’s located within both Universal City and Los Angeles County. Check out ticket prices here.Check out ticket prices here.
Knott’s Berry Farm
Located in Buena Park, this is a more moderately-priced theme park at $67 per ticket.
But it’s still a lot of fun for kids of all ages, and adults, too. You’ll find fun and thrilling rollercoasters, rides, and eateries here.
Conclusion: 3 Days in Los Angeles Itinerary
I hope this Los Angeles itinerary has shown you all the best things to do in LA in 3 days. While it’s hard to see everything in such a sprawling metropolis, 3 days in Los Angeles should be enough to see the highlights – both the famous and the local favorites.
About the Author:
This post was written by Rebecca, who runs her own blog at The Journey at Home – where she writes about her life as a mother of 5 with everything that comes along with it. She lived in New York for a long time before she moved to Las Vegas. She also works as a freelancer for Arzo Travels.